Many Indian households would have celebrated Diwali in some form, either by attending regional festivals, community gatherings or devotional worship over the past month or so.
The essence of Diwali now days has become an integral part of New Zealand’s landscape.
We see the Festival of Lights recognised at libraries, workplaces and schools through food, stories and clothing. Banks continue to promote rangoli themed debit/credit cards with a friendly happy Diwali message at ATMs, and this year, it was surprisingly peculiar but proud to see TVNZ join in the festive spirit with their classical interlude during the ad breaks.
As much joy it is to see the various interpretations of the Festival, it is the Indian community coming together and sharing their culture that brings about the importance of celebrating not only this festival but also diversity in New Zealand.
The composition of the New Zealand Indian Diaspora has grown dramatically in size and complexity in recent years. It now comprises a diverse range of languages, religion, cultural values, customs, traditions and geographic, tribal and national identities.
We need to hold fast to this welcoming foundation.
Changing needs, capabilities
Existing community groups have recognised the need to evolve and accommodate changing needs within their capabilities and if not, new community groups have formed to fill the gap.
Being a 92-year old Organisation, the New Zealand Indian Central Association (NZICA), the only national apex body, knows that for change to happen, the current ‘business as usual’ must be replaced by a new and different way.
For NZICA, it means that we have required new thinking about how we can get to know, understand and work with communities to foster a sense of inclusion and participation, improve health, safety and welfare whilst realising the benefits of diversity for New Zealand. With this in mind, change has come opportunity.
Seven Focus areas
“Our Community, Our people” is the guiding vision for the work of the NZICA.
In developing a new strategy, we have identified seven focus areas specific to the needs of the Indian community.
Our plan establishes to build our capability to deliver culturally appropriate and responsive programme improving our existing initiatives.
Achieving this vision means working in partnership with communities, government, learning facilities and businesses in identifying solutions and implementing them.
While work programme items may vary from year to year, the focus areas are more enduring – and provide a multi-year frame according to needs.
The seven focus areas cover a holistic approach in ensuring the wellbeing and advancement of New Zealand Indians. This means our community will have greater opportunities, capabilities and incentives to live a quality life without discrimination, and that they face fewer obstacles to achieving their goals.
This bold plan also addresses NZICA’s leadership role; how we will represent the breadth of our community; and how we will strengthen our stakeholder relationships over the next ten years. We are on a mission to connect with all Indian diaspora groups in NZ.
Our Operating Model
Just as ambitious as our vision, is our operating framework based on a foundation of community knowledge from which we work.
Our framework supports and enhances our community so that they contribute and participate fully in society and in the global community.
NZICA President Bhikha Bhana refers to the Mantra, “Respect the past, celebrate the current, Aspire and encourage the future.”
In essence, this Mantra reflects our achievements since the implementation of our strategic intentions one year ago.
In 2018, we delivered several projects and initiatives.
Following are some highlights:
Highlights of the Year
Mokaa exhibition (a photographic story of the Indian Diaspora since 1769 to the present day) continues to tour New Zealand.
Currently showing at Waitakere Library, this will be the final leg of the 18-month tour visited by over 130,000 people in seven cities.
Supported by the Office of Ethnic Communities, the exhibition has been a tremendous accomplishment in acknowledging our past.
India’s Independence Day celebrated in Auckland was a successful collaborative event between various Auckland based Indian community groups, Indian High Commission and NZICA.
International Student Meetup to foster better integration of Indian students: While the immediate goal of the event was to educate and sensitise the recently arrived international students about the Kiwi-life, the bigger and an overarching goal was to build bridges between them and the older migrants who have settled well in the country and organised through long-established community associations.
Commemorating the anniversary of the Women Suffrage movement through the eyes of Indian Women delivered at the September Women’s Conference.
This NZICA facilitated-Conference enhanced partnership and engagement with other several women organisations in the community. The vision of the Forum was to facilitate women of the Indian Diaspora in New Zealand to think collectively for the betterment of our next generation.
Recognising and acknowledging sporting achievements of the past at the Indian Newslink Sports and Community Awards to increase sporting participation in our youth. This initiative would not have been possible without Venkat Raman from Indian Newslink.
Liaison with Government
The NZICA has an important role as liaison to Government.
Our engagement with the Prime Minister and Members of Parliament and government agencies allowed several conversations to support social cohesion as the basis for a connected yet diversified nation including immigration policies, ethnic community forums, crime prevention, food handling practices and ethnic languages in mainstream education. We were proud to have presented to Prime Minister Jacinda Arden, an expecting Mother at that time, a gift during Holi in further strengthening our ties.
We need to ensure that the government acknowledges the strengths, cultural richness, and international linkages of our community so that the government can deliver better and more responsive public services according to our needs.
NZICA has worked towards the betterment of Indians in New Zealand over the past 92 years and so has a strong commitment in ensuring that this country embraces and values the diversity of its population to help to build a sense of belonging and participation.
Everyone has the right to enjoy the same level of inclusiveness and equal opportunity. We are confident that together we will enhance “Our Community, Our People” and become a more inclusive society.
The New Zealand Indian Central Association was established in 1926 by three Indian Associations; Auckland, Wellington and Country Section to advance the cause of all Indians, be it educational, health, welfare or cultural identity. Today this well-established national body, has an operational record of 92 years in dealing with issues concerning Kiwi Indians in general.
Manisha Morar is Assistant Secretary of the New Zealand Indian Central Association. She has worked in the Indian community for over 20 years as a change agent with expertise in strategic development, implementation and management.